Photo Credit: Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Bumbling Connor McDavid’s early years attracts attention

Edmonton Oilers forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl attended the Biosteel camp ahead of NHL training camps. McDavid didn’t skate at the camp, while Draisaitl answered some questions about Jesse Puljujarvi’s desire to be traded and signing in Finland. This spawned an article from Cathal Kelly in The Globe and Mail about McDavid’s lack of enthusiasm for the upcoming season and ditto for Matt Larkin and The Hockey News about Draisaitl.

Naturally, Oilers fans weren’t happy to read this, especially coming from Toronto of all places. The Oilers franchise cornerstone didn’t skate, which set off concerns he may not be ready for the season, and the two best players on the team look, well, less than enthusiastic before the season is about to start.

McDavid didn’t give an emphatic yes when he was asked if he thinks the Oilers will make the playoffs and I don’t blame him. McDavid and Draisaitl aren’t dumb guys. They can see the roster moves made by Ken Holland. Sure, dumping Milan Lucic for James Neal is a win, but Neal was equally bad for the Flames as Lucic was for the Oilers last season. Markus Granlund, Mike Smith, Josh Archibald, and Joakim Nygard aren’t going to turn this thing around. This year is most likely another building season, with the playoffs only if almost everything goes right. The 2019-20 Oilers don’t look like a playoff thing.

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It’s not an Edmonton thing, it’s a McDavid thing. Like it or not, when the Oilers won the McDavid lottery in 2015 it brought a ton of attention to a team that struggles to make the right decision more often than not. Many people thought there was no way the Oilers could mess up the situation McDavid came into, with multiple high draft picks already in the fold, and, well, they found a way.

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It’s a big deal. McDavid might be a top-five player of all time and the Oilers only made the playoffs once in his first four seasons. They had two 100-point players, including a 50-goal scorer, and were 11 points back of the playoffs in a historically poor year to make the cutoff.

McDavid is thrilling to watch. Any season where he isn’t putting on a show in the playoffs is a crime. The 2016-17 playoffs were exciting. The atmosphere around Edmonton was incredible.

I get it. There’s inherent tribalism with sports fandom. You can criticize your team, but it’s different coming from other fans or media. But that’s the reality when a team with a generational talent is floundering.

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Since 2005-06, we haven’t seen a team handle a superstar like the Oilers have with McDavid.

I’ve included players within thirty percent of McDavid’s points per game in his first four seasons (1.30 ppg).

McDavid is part of the elite players to enter the league since 2005-06. He’s sandwiched between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. He’s that good. Evgeni Malkin is trailing those three then there’s a drop between that group and Steven Stamkos, Nicklas Backstrom, Auston Matthews, Patrick Kane, and Paul Stastny.

You could argue McDavid’s Oilers aren’t that far off Ovechkin’s Capitals or even Stamkos’ Lightning. Ovechkin’s Capitals made the playoffs Ovechkin’s third and fourth years. The Capitals didn’t miss the playoffs again until 2013-14. Stamkos made the Eastern Conference Finals in his third season. The Lightning took a step back the following two seasons. Neither situation is really comparable to McDavids. Washington was trending up and Stamkos wasn’t on the same level as McDavid.

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The only players to have even less team success in their first four seasons are Jack Eichel and Taylor Hall. Eichel’s Sabres have arguably worse than McDavid’s career with the Oilers, but Eichel isn’t McDavid. There’s been a significant gap between the two players every year of their careers. 2018-19 was the first season Eichel finished above a point per game, although he came close in injury-shortened seasons in 2016-17 and 2017-18. McDavid’s never had a season below one point per game.

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The Oilers lack of success with McDavid is bound to attract attention.

Imagine if Crosby only made it to the playoffs once in his first four seasons. Or if Ovechkin’s Capitals were a fairly safe bet to miss the playoff in his fifth season. There’d be a daily thinkpiece in every Canadian city.

It won’t stop until the Oilers show they’re a competent NHL franchise. Peter Chiarelli couldn’t do it, but maybe Holland can achieve that in the next couple years. In the meantime, the Oilers will be rightfully criticized for their lack of success with one of the games best young players. Oilers fans would be roasting the Leafs or the Flames if they fumbled a superstar similar to McDavid.

Oilers fans, don’t take it personally. It’s not you, it’s me(agar) results with an elite superstar.

  • Bond 0097

    The blame for the results can be laid out in this order, Lowe, MacT, Chirelli, Sideshow Bob and Mcleland. I think we are actually going to be able to compete this year and surprise some people, unloading that failure Lucy was HUGE for the Oilers but we are still feeling his after effects with PullyourRv walking out. Better times are close hang in there everybody

      • Dallas Eakins Hair

        LMAO let us know when the sell off is complete so Chia 2.0 can sign turtlechuk and whathisname…oh then I guess you can see whats left in the bargain bin to fill the holes. Course you guys did score big in free agency with Talbot, better get back to Value Village nation and plan that Stanley Cup parade….LOL

      • Lowe enuf

        I guess the real question is who cares? The Lames finished first in the West and completely sharted their pants. The only thing sad in the whole mess is how you Caltards continue to bring up the issue so we can all remember just how quickly the Avalance dispatched your hapless team. Don’t worry though the world is full of people who can tell you who finished first in the West way back when. Lucky for you sad sacks they don’t keep stats for who gets jettisoned first.

      • Dallas Eakins Hair

        Yeah and couldnt get it done and it was another patented first round exit for the Value Villagers… 13 and counting….. one win and done…lolololololol FAIL!!

          • Dallas Eakins Hair

            awww look at that, someones lashing out, dont worry buddy, maybe you can play NHL 19 and the ValueVillagers will win a cup…probably wont win one that way either but hey maybe they can make it past a first round on there…hey

          • Intercourse the Penguins

            One hour since you last self cheered. A FACT YOU DO NOT AND CANNOT DISPUTE. Maybe you have turned a corner? Or you were busy amusing or abusing yourself? How many last overalls? I troll in reply.

          • Dallas Eakins Hair

            Wow man you seem to have this unhealthy obsession with me almost like a Stalker would have not to mention the sexual references and of course your name is an indication of that and they fact that your just raging and spouting anger, you should really seek some professional help. Your constant making of different accounts under multiple names, getting banned from multiple sites sure seem to point that you need some professional help, you should seriously take some time away from posting at sports sites and get out and do something that isn’t or has nothing to do with hockey related activities, you clearly have reached the point where this ins’t a hobby or an enjoyable past time and have ventured into irrational thoughts and feelings

  • OriginalPouzar

    McDavid is 22 years old and just finished the first year of an 8 year contract.

    McDavid is not a stupid person, he knows that it will take Holland a couple years to undue the cap and asset depth damage that Chiarelli created and put the team in a suitable cap situation. He knows the new GM is setting the structure up for significant improvements within a few years and current moves are lower risk and future cap oriented with the ultimate goal in mind. It won’t be too long.

    Go Oilers!

    • The future never comes

      Not only that, I am sure when they met for dinner in the summer that Holland was candid with Connor. Neither are in the dark as to what needs to happen here and sure Holland outlined his strategy over the next couple of years.

  • Schmidt Head

    I’ve written about this numerous times before so forgive me for being repetitive. The Oilers’ problem(s) are due in large part to the way they think which greatly influences how they act.

    Many years outside the playoffs result in fan frustration. I get that but if you make the wrong decisions, year after year, in pursuit of the wrong goal, it inevitably results in failure and even more frustration; and more failure.

    The Oilers are in the state they’re in; even after all these years, precisely because, after all these years, they continue to aspire to the wrong objective, set the bar too low and make all the wrong decisions based on short term thinking and panic.

    When your goal is to “make the playoffs”, your decisions are all based off of that and your plan is by definition, short term.

    The stated objective should instead be “build a dynasty.” Of course everyone realizes that “making the playoffs” is the first step on that long road but when all of your energies are dedicated to the first step instead of the final one, and when you treat barely grasping the final straw at the last minute as a major accomplishment instead of the pure luck that it really is then you’re not seeing the big picture and you’re bound to keep failing exactly because you’ve set the wrong objective for yourself and your thinking and actions are directed in the wrong places.

    Luck and hope are not strategies. Long term planning and a focus on building, are.

    • Die Hard Oiler Fan

      Very well said. Agree 100%. Thank goodness Oilers now have an experienced GM in Holland who realizes this, and is building towards the correct goal.

      In terms of “the blame game”, there are likely a few members of Oilers management who qualify to be mentioned, but in my books a very, very, very easy winner is Chia. I am not going to relist all of the poor trades, signings, cap management, etc. that he orchestrated (that has been done numerous times). I can’t think of an other GM with a tenure as poor as this. I really don’t know how the man can look in the mirror in the morning.

    • wiseguy

      Can’t disagree more. Remember when the Oilers decided to tank and rebuild with top draft picks because just barely making or missing the playoffs like they had been doing was not good enough? It was the plan that to tank for a few years would bring us the top end talent we were lacking and then in 3-5 years we would be competing for the cup year after year. That was a decade ago…. the results have been awful not because they were just trying to make the playoffs but because we jettisoned all vets for draft picks to “rebuild properly”

  • CMG30

    Yes. This is absolutely valid criticism. The Oilers should have been a perennial playoff team before McDavids ELC expired. By now they should be in the conversation every year as a possible cup favorite. The fact that the same guys were left in the captains chair to pilot us into the rocks again and again is a crime against professional sports.

    Just looking at the return for Hall was all it should have taken to can those clowns. Sadly I expect that our owners health problems probably distracted him and he was delegating too much oversight to Nicholson who has already bragged that he knows nothing about hockey players.

  • Fireball

    I’d like to point out that Connor and Leon both always use there mono tone voices with serious looking facial expressions and would never come out to say we are going to be in the playoffs this year.. if they were perennial contenders im not sure they would. I didn’t see anything different in either interview than any other. When there’s no news you got to make it I guess..

    Yup everyone should be concerned about McKnee., starting the second he injured it until he is playing in the NHL again. Nothing changed there. He’s making sure he’s ready to go., OMG he didn’t skate in Bio Steel ?? I think someone should be tied to a cows tail and s$&@ to death if he was 100% coming off injury and let him skate in that crap !! Yeah that would give em something to write about.. Connor has a month left before he has to be on the Ice with the Oilers and re-injures himself at Bio Steel Camp ?? Raise your right hand please ?? Now slap yourselves !

    Mario took years to get the pens to the playoffs.. Steve Y the same.. once they did they were power houses.. expect the same. Again if there’s no news we better make it.

    Now let’s talk about how everyone messed up and the OBC. That oughta get us to camp.

    • Fireball

      Hey remember when Connor Hurt his knee and then showed up with a knee brace on ?? Then the whole of the hockey world acted like they didn’t know Connor had a knee injury that would likely require a knee Brace ?? Yeah them’s good times

  • Deported to Ottawa

    McDavid is a smart, driven young man. I don’t think there’s an ounce of quit in the man.

    He wants to win. He wants to win in Edmonton.

    I think even giving bandwidth to these assumptions at this point of his career is selling him short.

    I wouldn’t be concerned until the Oilers win a cup.

    • CMG30

      Sadly, fans here can see the writing on the wall. The cap situation that Holland inherited means that proper solutions probably can’t be had until next off season.

      While it’s not impossible that the Oilers will make the playoffs this year, the smart money says that we’re probably on the wrong side of the bubble again. A lot of things that went wrong last year will have to go right and the things that went right last year will have to continue. Considering that McDavid is coming into the season after not being able to train as he would like has got to be a concern for everyone considering that he’s basically half our offense.

      McDavid, LD and RNH all posted career years last year and now McDavid is hobbled to some degree to start the year. It’s simply unrealistic to expect these three to do more. In fact they could have great years again even if they don’t quite match their totals from last year. What this means is that the rest of the team needs to pick up the slack and nothing in the past decade tells me that’s something we should count on.

  • Alloilers

    Anyone who gives credit or reads Cathal Kelly has to have rocks in their head, unless it’s their first time. And you cite him here? Why would you do that. You give sports writers a bad name.

  • RJ

    It should be said here again. It wasn’t Hall for Larsson. It was Hall for Larsson + Lucic.

    Fans and media in Edmonton were so deep in the kool-aid that no one saw it for the brutal deal it was. For me, the better move would have been to sign Demers to take the 1RHD spot, and then even if they did decide to trade for additional RHD, they would not have been as desperate.

    • CMG30

      Yes and no.

      It was sold to the public as Hall for Larsson and Lucic and there is no doubt Hall was dumped because he was in the spot that was promised to Lucic, but the actual trade was Hall for Larsson: 1 for 1. Lucic was a free agent who signed with the team after.

      In actual fact, it was one of the most lopsided deals in the past decade and is becoming a steady presence on top 10 worst deals in NHL history. Adding insult to injury, several GM’s were quoted after as being shocked that Hall was available and mused that they would certainly have offered more if given the chance.

      At minimum, any other competent GM would have evened up the value a little bit with picks or prospects coming back. The whole thing was a tour de force in abysmal asset management and the first blatant example of the clubs complete lack of ability to assess professional talent. Of course the fact that the GM defended the move by saying that you can get better by losing trades implies that he was fully aware that he was flushing assets and simply didn’t care… Either way, this was brain-meltingly stupid. The only thing more unbelievable was that the people at the very top were fine with it.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    Bah it’s Toronto. All these years late and they’re still pissy Edmonton won the McDavid lottery. I’m not taking anything seriously from media that follows a team that hasn’t won a playoff round in 15 years.

  • BerkhamstedOil

    For me, the biggest problem this organisation has systemically had through the years is the inability to draft and develop. While the Petry decision may have been at the heart of the chain of events that led to the Hall trade and Lucic signing or the bungled evaluation of Reinhardt had us giving up high picks in a deep draft, etc. the fact is that we don’t have the complementary players that any competent organisation would have had to allow their superstars to lead their teams into the playoffs. This problem has spanned the many changes/shuffles at the top. Chia probably doesn’t make the two biggest gaffes that probably cost him his job if we had drafted/developed one or two reasonably capable d-men. Too many Alex Plantes and not enough Hampuis Lindholms.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    I dont take much of anything the Toronto media has to say 80% of the time, these are the same pundits that when the Leafs string together 3 wins in a row say “Are the Leafs cup contenders right now” The Toronto media loves to throw out the clickbait when it comes to a lot of stories loving other teams stars, its all about generating hits and traffic.

    Have the Oilers Mgmt screwed up with how things have went with the team on and off the ice for the last 12 years sure, what fan doesnt know that. I am a lot more optimistic for the future than I was because we are seeing some changes being made off the ice that needed to happen long ago, as much as I would have loved to have seen a total cleanout I am good with the start we have gotten off to. I would hope that Hollands mantra of how things are being done ATM will continue on because its been over due, as for how the players are in interviews and what nt, god donht read to much into that, most players in the league outside of a few are going to give generic responses t questions, they arent going to say anything stupid, Roenick and a few other would actually say what was on their mind but thats kind of far and few in between these days when we see that

  • Kr55

    Criticism is fine, but writers out in Toronto still butt-hurt about the 2015 lottery making up what McDavid/Drai are feeling about the team to write click-bait articles is still extremely lame.

  • Super Nintendo Chalmers

    You’re as bad as any media, writing the Oilers off before training camp. Dont take into account Klefbom’s injury derailing the season, the fact the whole team had an historically bad shooting percentage, not just Reider, their Pk was awful, but their PP was pretty good, RNH set a career high for points, Draisaitl too, just focus on the past and be negative. Neal isnt going to help? I would bet last yest was the outlier. McDavid and Draisaitl weren’t depressed to be playing in Edmonton, they were annoyed by the idiotic questions from pinheaded journalists who dont know enough about what happened in Edmonton but make stupid assumptions like they do. I have the Oilers making the playoffs in the wild card, because they whole team is going to be better.

  • JariCurry

    Mcdavid 1 playoff appearance. Marner/Matthews have 3. Only one has a series win! We talk about a lack of playoffs in Edmonton. I prefer to talk about glory. The leafs nation is just glory starved and had to watch the new kid (Raptors) show them how it’s done. I’d be annoyed too.

  • thenoble1

    (Oilers fans would be roasting the Leafs or the Flames if they fumbled a superstar similar to McDavid.). Not everyone is like you. And just because you do it doesn’t mean everyone else well. First of all, McDavid hasn’t been fumble by Edmonton, contrary to your belief!

  • thenoble1

    Stop bashing McDavid and Edmonton! Just because you do it doesn’t mean everyone else will do it or should do it. Some of us Oiler fans would never put down other teams the way others have. And by the way, McDavid hasn’t been bumbled!!

  • Beinian66

    Not an Oiler fan defintely a hockey fan so i find it sad your club has been so badly managed. Ken Hollamd has a great track record as a GM so there is hope.Management and scouting imho is what needs to be fixed in Edmonton the new GM knows hockey andnwill address the scouting . Still going to take 2 maybe 3 years before any tangible results will show hopefully McDavid will still buy in by then.